The Importance of Oral Tradition and Storytelling

Elan Blog Post image tatianaOral tradition is defined as “a community’s cultural and historical traditions passed down by word of mouth or example from one generation to another without written instruction.” In other words, everything we know about our parents (and their parents, and their parents, etc.) we learned from stories told through what they wore, what they drew, and what they made. My mother tells me stories about the crazy 80s fashion she went to high school with, but my father tells me about growing up in east Eritrea with dirt walls and no roof. Writing these stories down lends privilege to the lives we’d otherwise forget. Textbooks take down facts, writers take down the heart.

As we close in on Élan’s 30th consecutive year in publication, it’s important to remind ourselves why we have made it this far and why we will continue to publish in the future.

Through writing, we get to see what others left behind, and through our own writings we do the same for the readers who come after us. No one was there when the world began. I will never see my mother’s crazy 80s fashion and my father’s dirt walls. We have unanswered questions about how the world began and why we’re here. We’re all born into our own reality (our own truth) that’s continuously shaped by our experiences. With each story told, we chip away at that Truth. Élan does so much more than share the works of young writers. It keeps tradition from slipping through the cracks. It shares the stories we love hearing and forces us to listen to ones we don’t.

Storytelling helps us cope with the unknown. It finds joy in those questions. Sharing our stories makes us a part of a larger one, and while we may never put our Truth into words (perhaps we were never meant to), storytelling makes that Truth accessible. In the last three decades, Élan has held onto those values. We have been a consistent, reliable, and important source of stories for the last thirty years and will continue to be so in the future

-Tatiana Saleh, Senior Layout & Design Editor

A Tradition of Thanks

Blog Post Tradition PicThis past June I made my way across the Atlantic to visit one of the Seven Wonders of the World, The Coliseum. While waiting for my ticket to be purchased to get inside, I made my way to the many vendors set up with various tchotchkes, postcards, and more. A man with a cardboard box hung around his neck approached me and tried to get me to purchase one of his knock- off Rolexes. I told him over and over “No, thank you” but he just couldn’t take that for an answer. Since he hounded me with so many offers, I decided ask him where he was from. He told me that he and many of the other vendors were from Somalia. I then asked him why he was here in Italy, he nonchalantly replied with one word, “Money.”

“I need a passport and she needs school: to read.” he said. The man then proceeded to point to a little girl behind him who looked to be about three years old. This was all they had, just a worn out lawn chair, a box of fake Rolexes and what little hope they had left.

Thinking about the life I had left for two weeks back at home made me realize how good I had it. My father wasn’t trying to make ends meet by selling watches outside the Coliseum gates. And I knew how to read. I had never been thankful for being able to read. Now with the holidays around the corner, families coming into town, I cannot think of a better tradition to end the holiday season with; being thankful. My friends, my school that has allowed my love for writing to be nurtured, my home, a country where I can speak freely, my mother, my father, everything. Every opportunity that has been put at my feet even if it ended in failure. Everything.

And after that trip I began writing in a journal one good thing that happened to me each day- which I still do. Whether it is passing my math test, waking up on time, or learning something new, I know I have something to be thankful for every day. So as I close out this year and ring in the new one I hope that this tradition will continue to open my eyes and allow me to take in so much more of this world.

-Madison George, Social Media Editor

Coffee House

Coffee House posterFor me, senior year is a list of count downs: counting down to my eighteenth birthday, to college deadlines and shining most teasingly away, of course, counting down to graduation. In this current world of projects and deadlines, of feeling my toes creep towards the finish line, I can’t help but still feel sentimental towards a few things.

Tonight, the Douglas Anderson Writing Department is hosting its annual Coffee House. It’s known for the unique collaboration opportunity between all arts areas and its determination to showcase original, student created work. It will be my last as an official member of the school.

The beautiful thing about Coffee House is that not only does the show change every year, both in writing and style, but the way that you as a person experience it changes as well. My freshman and sophomore years were marked as a performer, not of my own pieces but of other people’s. I stood backstage, eavesdropping on masterful writers practicing, borrowed someone’s giant, sweaty gray shirt for a prop. I sat on the floor between acts, trying to remember lines that weren’t mine and watching local directors spit out instructions.

I don’t remember anything from my Junior Coffee House, regrettably. I may have been on the bleachers, or at a table, sitting by one friend or another. The only thing I cared about was that the One-Girl-I-Hated wasn’t preforming, and that the pieces were taking me places I didn’t want –but needed- to go.

This year, things have changed again. As a member of the Elan staff, I am behind the scenes. I have sold tickets, painted doors, been pushed past my comfort level again and again to help make Coffee House happen. The entire production feels more meaningful than ever before, not just because of the glare of senior nostalgia, but because I now appreciate every single aspect of the process.

Some things stay the same, of course. There will be a theme (this year it is doors and keys), teachers will be thanked and coffee will be served. Due to the construction on our building, we’re going back to my middle school for the show. It feels a little like driving to an old neighborhood and vaguely recollecting checking that yellow mailbox, or drawing on that old porch. In a way, it hints at an even earlier tradition.

Next year, if I’m in town, I see myself coming back to watch Coffee House happen. It’ll probably feel foreign, a little like trying on a t-shirt half a size too small, it also could feel like a crop top that suddenly fits just right. That’s the thing about tradition, it lets you hold on to the best feeling of things, and create new experiences as you go along.

-Savannah Thanscheidt, Web Editor


If you’re interested in attending, this event will be held at LaVilla School of the Arts from 7-9pm. Tickets will be 7 dollars.